Should Your Business Go Paperless in a Digital World?
Recent years have seen the rise of more businesses reducing their carbon footprint by going paperless. Paperless companies are making use of the latest tech and software to create digital documents, billing, and other forms of correspondence, and it's having a significant impact on the success of their business.
Understandably, a paperless workplace is not going to suit every business. However, most companies would benefit significantly by transitioning to a paperless workplace due to an increase in productivity and cost-effectiveness. To understand how going paperless can help your business, here are a few of the benefits and how you can implement paperless practices in your company.
The most significant benefit to going paperless is increased security. Paper documents are vulnerable to damage from fire and water, which can be occasional hazards in the workplace. They are also susceptible to theft.
Cloud-based storage is encrypted with layers of protection for your digital documents. Though there is a risk files can be hacked, it is much smaller than that of stolen or damaged paper files. If there is sensitive information, you don't want to risk storing in the cloud; just ensure you store the files locally offline.
Streamline Business Processes
Business processes that would have traditionally taken hours or days can now be performed with the touch of a button in a digital document management system. Employees can compile and transfer data, authorize documents, and complete transactions in a faster, more efficient way that boosts your business' velocity and creates higher profit margins.
Businesses that need documents signed no longer need to rely on courier services or the postal system to get the signatures they need. With software like DocuSign or Sertify, companies can upload and send documents to a second party who can return them with a signature in a matter of seconds.
Unlike traditional filing systems, a paperless system saves and stores documents instantaneously and can be stored in multiple locations without making physical copies.
Not only is storage simplified; retrieval is, as well. With the addition of tags, a document can be retrieved from multiple file locations almost instantaneously, as opposed to sifting through paper documents manually.
Another one of the pitfalls of a paper-based filing system is the potential to lose documents. This problem is compounded when the documents need to travel or are stored offsite. Cloud-based systems save documents in real-time, so you never need to worry about losing important documents or data again.
Simple Proof of Compliance
Businesses are increasingly required to adhere to stricter standards of practice. Some regulatory organizations require documents to be stored and accessible for years, in addition to tracking the documents' access, changes, and authorizations.
Digital document management systems have a built-in security system to enhance confidentiality and eliminate unauthorized access to sensitive information.
More Office Space
It is estimated the average office uses approximately 30 pieces of paper daily. That's 10,000 sheets of paper every year. These documents need to be filed somewhere, and often the sheer volume of documents can extend beyond the filing cabinet, taking over whole offices.
Cloud-based tech removes the need for a physical space to store documents, freeing up space, and is an excellent way to reduce workplace waste.
Going paperless can save your business thousands of dollars long-term. If you calculate the cost of paper, ink, toner, and postage used per employee, as well as printers and repairs, the total adds up to a substantial portion of your company's revenue.
Though there is an initial outlay to convert paper files to digital, the average monthly charge for a cloud-based storage subscription for your business would only be a fraction of the cost of the paper-based office.
Also, the time saved from regained man-hours ends up as money in your pocket and helps to streamline the internal processes in your company.
Many businesses are beginning to see the value in reducing their carbon footprint, and a paperless company is a step in the right direction toward becoming a green company.
Even if your company is already using recycled paper products, the energy and resources used to treat, process, and transport those products still leaves a significant environmental footprint. Digitizing most, or all, of your business processes eliminates the need for paper products, keeping trees in the earth where they belong.
Improved Customer Service
Customer service is the key to standing out from the competition, and with information storage and retrieval digitized, more energy can be put into satisfying your customers. One of the major complaints businesses receive is that customer service departments have long waiting periods and poor communication. Freeing up support staff to provide more personal, in-depth service can lead to increased customer satisfaction.
Another way to provide customers with the information they need is by digitizing your customer service department. Live chat allows customers to begin their queries on their own at a time convenient for them.
How You Can Go Paperless
Plan to Dispose of Your Documents
Transitioning from a paper-based business to paperless takes time and consideration. Going paperless is a great eco-friendly business practice, but don't start your green business journey off on the wrong foot.
Once you have scanned all the documents and turned them into digital files, you will need to organize them in a way that is easily accessible for the transition period before your dispose of them.
It is also a good idea to store your paper documents offsite during the transition to allow ample time for error correction or re-scanning.
Finally, ensure you have an eco-friendly way to dispose of the paper documents you no longer need. Many companies specialize in shredding business documents and recycling the waste.
Uptraining and Protocol Enforcement
For many employees, it can be difficult to let go of paper-based processes and make the transition to a solely digital way of doing business. The key to easing your employees into the new way of doing things is to start slow.
Create documents in a familiar format, such as PDF, that can be viewed on various devices. Train all employees to use document management software, and encourage the use of mobile apps to create digital files that employees can use on their smartphones.
Replace Redundant Technologies
Once you have stopped using paper in the office, there will be no need to keep printers, copiers, or fax machines. Replace these pieces of tech with dual monitor set-ups which allow employers ample screen space to view documents. Finally, opt to receive invoices and statements digitally from suppliers and service providers to keep paper around the office to a minimum.
What Are the Cons?
Your company will also have to weigh the cons of going paperless. While the benefits are many, there are a few hurdles you may have to overcome.
Security of Sensitive Material
Some information such as financial information, needs to be under lock and key, so the security of an entirely paperless business can be a concern. Depending on your industry, federal, and state regulations may require you to archive hard copies of specific documents. If you choose to go paperless, restrict access and set up encryption on sensitive material.
Technology is wonderful when it is working, but frustrating when the system fails. If your system crashes, you could lose everything. Protocol for daily back-up will help overcome this issue.
As employees spend more time at their desk the likelihood of health issues and missed work days is a concern. Everything from eyestrain to poor posture to carpal tunnel syndrome to obesity can be caused by increased use of technology. Invest in standing desks, active chairs, and other ergonomic equipment to safeguard your employees’ health.
Bad for the Environment
Paper can be recycled easily, but that is not the case for electronics. The environmentally unfriendly components can often make recycling and disposal difficult. Source local firms and organizations to help alleviate the disposal burden.
All businesses can benefit from going green, and a paperless workplace is a great place to start. However, don't expect the transition to happen overnight. The most effective way to introduce paperless practices is to go slow and be thorough. Try some of these tips to help your business get on the right track to a greener future.
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger and ExchangerHub. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, ibc totes, and industrial racks.